24 October 2008


Times-Picayune - Portion of gas tax may pad program

Since 1989, Louisiana has had the TIMED program, a set of vitally-needed highway and bridge projects, funded by 4 cents of the gasoline tax (out of the total 20-cent tax). Some are done already, and others are in progress. (As in "shovels have been turned" or "lanes have been closed".)

However, two major projects remain on the TIMED list... a new bridge crossing in New Orleans along Florida Avenue... and this thing:

...Lemme tell you, since TIMED passed, this thing has been held up for one reason or another. For a long time, it was due to environmental impact. Lately, it's been because nobody can decide on a concrete routing. Now TIMED is broke because people aren't driving. Go figure. Of course, if people can't afford gas, they don't drive, which means they don't fill their tanks and less gas is sold. Louisiana's gas tax is static - they charge the same tax rate whether a gallon of gas costs forty cents or four dollars. It doesn't help that the cost of upgrading the Huey Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish is running way over projections due to a general increase in cost for, oh, everything since Katrina hit.

There's also the matter of the federal highway trust fund possibly being cut by $200 million or so due to a new formula for funding being considered by federal officials.

Anyway, the Wise Ones in Baton Rouge are figuring they can funnel another 3 cents from the gas tax to get these last few TIMED projects done. There's some other voodoo economics they're looking into, such as using money collected from the vehicle sales tax to go into roads, and possibly getting their hands on some of the surplus as well. There's also the possibility of taking $50 million from employee benefits. (I got a better idea... take some of it from the higher-ups' salaries!) They've already cut close to 400 jobs to try to save money as it is, so you know the belts are getting very tight up there.

TIMED's problems are only a drop in the bucket compared to the state's transportation woes as a whole. $14 billion construction backlog, you say? Yeah, you heard me right. I'll say this much... they're going to need some more potent voodoo for the books than what they're doing/proposing/imagining if they want to finish getting any of these projects done.

And they need to get done soon... 20 years is too long to wait, and we're still waiting.

1 comment:

rmssilva said...

I for one hope that they just decide to drop LA 3241. The darned thing would run within 1000 feet of my front door and destroy a large area of local wetlands. Honestly, very few people here in the Bush/Sun area feel that this road is needed or necessary. Yes, both 21 and 41 are fairly busy, but tend to have much less traffic than anywhere around Covington: I have never had a problem with too much traffic on either of these roads. Also, we do have 435, which runs directly to Abita Springs and if widened could aleviate many traffic or accessibility issues. Also, if you look closely at the preferred route, it is not very direct and is somewhat out of the way unless you happen to live between 1088, 36 and 435. If the state wanted to put their money to good use, they would invest in the second bridge where 190 N goes from 4 lanes to one and becomes N. Collins BLVD. Anyone who has sat there long enough to foul a spark plug (I did in my motorcycle) would get much better use from that than LA 3241.